Release All Leaders

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Government on Wednesday shifted the detained People’s Conference leader Sajjad Lone and PDP youth wing president Waheed Parra to their residences from.the MLA hostel. They will continue to remain under house arrest. Both leaders were placed in detention in the wake of the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019. Lone had strongly opposed centre’s moves to tamper with J&K’s status. On the eve of New Delhi’s August 5 move, Lone was part of the all-party meet in Srinagar that had resolved to jointly fight the dilution of J&K autonomy.

After the shifting of Lone and Parra, thirteen political leaders remain under detention at the MLA hostel. Earlier on Tuesday, the J&K Government released two leaders — former PDP lawmaker from Wachi in south Kashmir Aijaz Ahmad Mir and Shakeel Ahmed Qalandar, a former president of the Federation Chamber of Industries, Kashmir. Since Sunday, a total of eight leaders have been released from preventive custody.

The successive release of the leaders reflects the growing confidence of the state government in the improvement of the situation in the erstwhile state. It sees the less likelihood of the situation tipping into turmoil.

At the same time, former chief ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti remain in detention. Senior Abdullah is the only mainstream politician against whom Public Safety Act (PSA) was slapped in September for a period of three months, which was renewed on December 16 last.

As things stand, Government shows little indication that it will free the three former chief ministers anytime soon. This has drawn severe international criticism. United States has time and again called for their release. But the government doesn’t see their freedom in its interest and apprehends it might disrupt peace in the Valley. It would be interesting to see how long more the government waits before it takes a call on their release.

So far the leaders who have been released have maintained silence on Article 370, lending some credence to the reports that they have signed bonds to get their freedom. However, it is only when the top leaders are released that we can expect to get some sense of how they will respond to the altered state of affairs. But considering all these leaders have invariably called for peace in the Valley, the government should release them and let them put their point of view before the people. Not doing so, will only prolong the current uncertainty, no matter how normal the Valley might appear on the outside.

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